white, noun and adjective

Forms:
Also with initial capital.
Origin:
EnglishShow more Special senses of general English.
A. noun
1. Ostrich-farming. [Absolute use of general English white ‘of the colour of snow or milk’ (OED).] prime.
c1881 A. Douglass Ostrich Farming 81Sort first into heaps consisting of prime whites, first whites, second whites, tipped whites.
1930, 1973 [see prime].
2. In historical contexts. [Special sense of general English white one of light skin colour, one of European descent.] Designating a person:
a. During the apartheid era: one classified as belonging to the ‘white’ group, especially in terms of the Population Registration Act (see quotation 1950 at sense B 1 a). See also classify, non-white noun, playwhite.
1966 Survey of Race Rel. 1965 (S.A.I.R.R.) 112Japanese people in South Africa are classified as ‘Other Asiatics’ under the Population Registration Act, but as Whites under the Group Areas Act.
1970 Survey of Race Rel. (S.A.I.R.R.) 25She and her parents and grandmother have always lived as whites, and have white identity cards.
b. Special Combinations
white-on-black adjective, of or pertaining to racially motivated aggression perpetrated by a white person or persons against a black person or persons; cf. black-on-black (see black noun sense 1 d);
whites only adjectival phrase Historical, alluding to the wording on signs erected at places reserved for the use of white people; used attributively in designating such signs, places so reserved, or activities restricted to white people.
1989 City Press 19 Feb. 9White on black violence.
1992 S. Memela in Pace Sept. 176Every now and then I visit my childhood friends..living in the formerly whites-only Northern Suburbs.
B. adjective
I. Of ethnicity.
1. [Special senses of general English white of light skin colour, of European descent.] During the apartheid era:
a. In historical contexts. Of an individual: classified as a ‘white person’ in terms of the Population Registration Act (see quotation 1950). See also classify, Honorary White.
1950 Act 30 in Stat. of Union 277‘White person’ means a person who in appearance obviously is, or who is generally accepted as a white person, but does not include a person who, although in appearance obviously a white person, is generally accepted as a coloured person.
1985 Race Rel. Survey 1984 (S.A.I.R.R.) 186His wife, who had a fair skin, would qualify for a white classification.
b. historical. Reserved by law for those classified as ‘white’; usually attributive, as white area, white beach, white job, white liquor, white school, white taxi, etc.
1957 D. Jacobson Price of Diamonds 90This was true of the white and coloured areas alone, for the natives lived in locations.
1991 Weekend Argus 26 Jan. 14There was a haphazard retreat from grand apartheid, with the granting of leasehold, and eventually freehold, property rights to blacks in ‘white’ areas.
c. Offensive and derogatory. Impudent, presumptuous; cf. cheeky. Often as an aggressive and racist warning given to a black person, don’t get white, don’t get white with (someone); sometimes used in contexts (e.g. of an animal) in which the offensively racist origin of the sense has been lost.
1978 A.P. Brink Rumours of Rain 247It’s a real problem. They’re getting too white, is what I say.
1990 Sunday Times 13 May 13Her 16-year-old brother..was threatened with a gun and told: ‘Don’t be smart and get white with us’ when he protested about the search.
d. Special collocations and phrases
white by night adjectival phrase Historical, (of a municipal policy or regulation) having the aim of keeping black people out of an area after dark or after a certain hour, especially by the imposition of a curfew; (of a town or area) falling under such a regulation or policy; (of actions) resulting from such a policy or aimed at enforcing such regulations; frequently attributive;
White South Africa, a collective term designating (a) those areas of South Africa which, during the apartheid era, were reserved for occupation by whites; (b) white South Africans collectively; (c) the cultural and social milieux and values of such people;
white spot historical [formed by analogy with black spot], a white-occupied area surrounded by black-occupied areas; cf. black spot; collectively, the inhabitants of such an area; also attributive.
c1970 C. Desmond Discarded People 165The vacated houses are now being used as hostels for domestic servants, since Pietersburg is ‘White by night’.
1990 Varsity Voice Apr. 15It’s a ‘white spot’ with full representation in the South African Parliament.
II. General. [Special uses of general English white ‘of the colour of snow or milk’ (OED), light-coloured.]
2. Special collocations
white button, a badge worn by ‘bitter-enders’ during the closing months of the South African War, 1900–1902; see also bitter-ender;
white els, white else /ˈwaɪtels/, also with initial capitals [partial translation of South African Dutch witte els, see wit els], (a) wit els; also attributive; (b) with defining word, water white els, Brachylaena neriifolia;
White French, see as a main entry;
white lightning [translation of Afrikaans witblits (see witblits); cf. U.S. white lightning illicitly distilled whisky], witblits sense b;
white pear, the evergreen tree Apodytes dimidiata subspecies dimidiata (family Icacinaceae); the wood of this tree;
white pipe, see pipe sense 2 b;
white sore throat Pathology [calque formed on Afrikaans witseerkeel diphtheria, wit white + seer sore + keel throat], diphtheria;
White Train [so named for the colour of its livery], a special train used for ceremonial and state occasions; also figurative.
1903 E.F. Knight S. Afr. after War 112These men..took to wearing ‘the white button’ on the left breasts — the badge that distinguishes those who fought to the end from those who surrendered or were taken prisoner.
1988 R. Gordon in Laband & Haswell Pietermaritzburg 1838–1988 95For almost three months the White Train was his home.
prime.
one classified as belonging to the ‘white’ group, especially in terms of the Population Registration Act (see quotation 1950 at B 1 a). See also classify, non-whitenoun, playwhite.
classified as a ‘white person’ in terms of the Population Registration Act (see quotation 1950).
Reserved by law for those classified as ‘white’; usually attributive, as white area, white beach, white job, white liquor, white school, white taxi, etc.
Impudent, presumptuous;